Walk the Line – Lesson One

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Anyone familiar with Steadicam knows what I mean when I say “Walk The Line.” We’ve all danced back and forth along that 1″ strip of gaffers tape too many times to count. There are some basic rules to walking the line that we’ve probably all been taught. Keep the post over the line! Hit your marks! The operator starts the Steadicam in motion before he takes his first step!

Well, in an attempt to take my operating to the next level, I decided to revisit all of those things we were taught, but just accepted at face value. Step one… find a nice open space to drop a gaff tape line and some marks. Step two… get in the rig and place the post over the line at your number 1. Step three… the operator starts the Steadicam in motion before he takes his first step.

Wait… that doesn’t feel right. OK, maybe I’m over thinking this… try again. Weight’s on one foot to start… now push the rig forward before you take your first step! Nope, not right at all.

I’m breaking it down into its elements and it just isn’t working for me. When I push the rig forward, it doesn’t move straight away from me, but rather in an arc due to the geometry of the arm. Then my left hand (I operate regular) is forced to counter the lateral movement of the rig and I get a wonky start. What’s going on?

I know I’m not crazy… I’ve never seen this issue in my operating. So what am I doing differently in the lab, that I don’t do in the field? Perhaps when I push the rig forward I correct by swiveling the Gimbal on the arm post… lets try that… NOPE, that’s even worse. Ok, Ok, Ok. Lets just try this without thinking about it.

Sure enough, when I don’t think about it… the camera moves forward along the line exactly as expected. So what am I doing differently. Turns out, that I shift my weight forward at the moment I start the sled moving. In fact, the sled, arm & I all shift forward before I take my first step. When I do this, the arms orientation doesn’t change! The rig moves forward perfectly along the line and I don’t have to correct at all.

So, new rule:

“The operator & rig move forward before the operator takes his first step.”

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